A Good Impression

The Denver Art Museum's nod toward Europe is a true blockbuster.

Moving on to the fifth gallery, we pass through a corridor in which the small but historically significant "Still Life With Oranges," an 1882 oil on canvas by Paul Gauguin, is hung alone. Though Gauguin is best remembered as a post-impressionist, this very early painting is pre-impressionist, being realist in style.

More fully expressing the abstraction and flatness of the post-impressionists is Vincent Van Gogh, and two beautiful if minor Van Goghs are displayed here. Unforgettable is the sketchy "Self-Portrait With a Straw Hat" of 1887, an oil on pasteboard. Curator Standring says the painting reflects Van Gogh's grinding poverty, since privation forced him to stretch the paint to the breaking point. Another big-time post-impressionist featured in Impressionism is Paul Cézanne, whose stunning "Bathers in Front of a Tent," an oil on canvas from 1883-85, is worth lingering over. Abstract artists of the early twentieth century, notably Picasso, would learn a lot from a Cézanne painting like this.

The last space brings us back to mainstream impressionism, here with a couple of Pierre-Auguste Renoir paintings in oil on canvas: 1883's "Bathing Woman" and 1903's "Seated Girl." They are displayed with a Cassatt and a Pissarro.

With nearly sixty paintings by more than a dozen artists, almost half of whom are giants in the canon of world art history, visitors may want to see the DAM's Impressionism more than once. I know I do.

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